Mercy’s free-of-charge, Christian residential program helps young women between the ages of 13 – 28 who are dealing with life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, unplanned pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, any sort of abuse or addiction, and/or any other negative life-controlling issues.
The average length of stay is six to nine months, although some residents move more quickly through the program, and some need a little longer. Counselors, along with the Program Director, evaluate progress during each resident’s time in the program to determine a graduation date.
Mercy has four homes in the United States located in Nashville, TN; Monroe, LA; St. Louis, MO; and Sacramento, CA. We evaluate each applicant individually to determine the home that best suits her needs and individual situation. Pregnant applicants and applicants aged 13-17 are placed in the Nashville home.
We are an independent Christian organization that is not affiliated with any single church, organization or denomination. While at Mercy, residents have daily Bible reading, praise and worship as well as daily classes based on principles of freedom found in God’s Word. They also attend a local non-denominational church.
Our Christian-based program curriculum, “Choices That Bring Change,” is the result of our three decades of ministering to girls in crisis and combines biblical principles of healing and unconditional love with best-practice clinical interventions, as outlined in our Freedom Series.
Trained counselors lead residents through the program curriculum, helping them explore issues of faith, forgiveness, family, overcoming abuse and past hurts, and general life principles. In addition to the curriculum, program resources feature internationally acclaimed teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Joyce Meyer, Dave Ramsey, Andy Stanley and Charlotte Gambill. Residents participate in both individual and group counseling on a weekly basis.
Each counselor at Mercy is required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in social work, psychology, counseling or a related field. 80% of our counselors have master’s degrees.
Although we are not a medical facility, some of the young women who enter our program have medical issues that need to be managed. To that end, our homes employ medical staff, and we provide adequate medical care for residents – including care from outside professionals who are called upon to help on a regular basis, as there is not a physician on staff.
Mercy does not discourage the use of medication. In fact, Mercy values the role medical intervention and pharmaceuticals have in helping young women struggling with depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. Mercy staff follow directions from outside physicians with regard to medication as it is not our place to make medication determinations. The overwhelming majority of our residents are on some kind of medication during their stay at Mercy some of which they have in place before coming and some of which is prescribed after they come into the program. As is common in therapy and counseling, when a young women progresses through processing pasts hurts and trauma, she may find that certain medications do not seem to be needed anymore. However, this is something she would handle with the outside physician she sees and not determined by Mercy staff.
A typical day at Mercy begins with breakfast, Bible reading, praise and worship, class, and lunch. After lunch there is counseling, fitness, school (for minors), dinner, class, study hall, and finally, bedtime. Residents are expected to participate in all activities. Because our program is based in a home, every resident participates in daily chores such as cleaning and kitchen duties. Phone calls can be made and received on weekends.
The length of our application process varies by an applicant’s situation and commitment level. Applicants who demonstrate a high level of commitment have the potential to be placed more quickly into our program. Entry into a Mercy home depends on many variables, including space availability, age, demonstrated commitment, and medical stability.
Our desire is to help every young woman struggling with life-controlling issues who wants help. However, we do look at approval into the program on an individual basis. Due to our program’s residential nature and its required materials, we assess to determine if Mercy is a good fit for each applicant. Additionally, we are not a medical facility and cannot accept applicants who are not medically stable. If we cannot accept an applicant into the program for any reason, we provide referrals to other programs.
Our program is free of charge. During a resident’s time in the program, she is responsible for her own personal expenses, including prescription medication expenses, any medical expenses incurred during her time in the program, and travel to/from Mercy.
Applicants cannot be ordered by a court to come to Mercy. If an applicant has legal issues, we will work with her on an individual basis. However, legal issues will usually need to be addressed before she enters our program. We are not an option for a young woman who wants to avoid court requirements such as probation or going to jail. However, being on probation does not prohibit someone from being accepted into our program.
Residents between the ages of 13-17 who have not graduated or do not have their high school equivalency test are required to participate in a school option. Options include our online home schooling program, correspondence work from her school/home school, or pursuing the GED/HiSET/TASC for those age 17 and older. Adults who have not graduated from high school have the opportunity to work toward a high school equivalency test as well. Due to the nature of the program and the focus on healing, we do not offer the option of university studies.
Meals are set with a menu plan approved by a registered dietician. There are three meals each day plus optional healthy snacks available. If a resident is dealing with an eating disorder or other health issues, she will be given an eating regimen set for her by our Nutrition Manager.
Activities include aerobics, going to the gym, and neighborhood walks led by the Fitness Manager who designs specific fitness plans for our residents. On the weekends residents can participate in recreational activities such as volleyball and going to the park.
Residents participate in supervised activities offsite from time-to-time. These include spending an afternoon shopping, recreational activities, going to church and attending sporting events.
Residents are able to make and receive phone calls with family every weekend, and mail can be sent and received daily. They are also able to visit with family over a weekend on a monthly basis.
Mercy does not use – and never will use – any counseling technique or tool that directly or indirectly encourages residents to manufacture memories of abuse or harm, such as “recovered memory therapy” or “theophostic prayer ministry.”
Because change is a process that takes place over a period of time, we encourage applicants to make an initial commitment to our program for approximately 6 months. However, our program is 100% voluntary, and residents are free to leave at any point.
In the final stages of a resident’s time at Mercy, she will begin the transitional care component of the program. This involves planning for work, education, training and transportation. Residents also work with their counselor in identifying an accountability partner in their city to meet with on a regular basis after they complete the program.